Nurturing the fruits of the Holy Spirit
Fundamental to our Christian life is the reality that God is both interested in, and actively involved in, our lives. Jesus came to tell us about God’s dream for the world: a dream that Jesus called ‘the kingdom of God’. Our human task is to collaborate with the Holy Spirit to bring about this kingdom of God. Every time we pray the ‘Our Father’ we are asking God to ‘let your Kingdom come, let Your will be done on earth’.
This is not a yearning for heaven, for some other reality; it is a yearning for our lives and for our reality to be transformed. If we really want that prayer to be true, ‘let Your kingdom come’ we are personally challenged to choose to be different.
Paul, when he writes of the fruits of the Holy Spirit, says we can know the activity of the Holy Spirit in our lives when we sense an increase in 9 named areas: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal 5:22-23). To collaborate with the Holy Spirit means that I should choose nourish these fruits of the Holy Spirit in myself.
All of us have probably at some point or other imagined how we would react in an extraordinary situation, calling for great leadership or sacrifice. One of the hardest lessons of the spiritual life is that every day I am in ordinary situations calling for me to act with Christ-like love. But mostly I don’t notice the situations; mostly I am so focused on my own narrow world-view that I miss the opportunities in front of me.
Jesus’ call to help build the kingdom of God can seem a big idea: one that belongs in the arena of great statesmen, like Nelson Mandela or Ghandi. But I think that Paul’s list of the fruits of the Spirit offers us a simple practical way of responding to Jesus’ invitation that we can all engage with. We all know of opportunities when we could be generous, or self –controlled, or any other of the 9 gifts.
We are called to proactively nurture the fruits of the Spirit in our own lives. By doing this we are responding to Jesus’ invitation to build the kingdom of God here on earth.
For me the discipline that helps most is of thinking back over each day and noticing where I see the fruits of the Holy Spirit in my life – and also where I see the opposite. To change, to actively work for God’s kingdom, requires first that I am aware of how I am living. Then I need a sense of gratitude for where I have responded to God’s love, and of sorrow for those moments when I failed to respond. Finally, I should desire to be different and to ask God for grace to help me to choose to be more loving, more generous, patient or faithful tomorrow. When I do this I am aware of a sense of working with God. It is then that I choose to allow ordinary situations to become extraordinary moments of collaborating with God’s grace in building God’s kingdom.